As torrential rains continued to wreak havoc countrywide, the Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan districts of Punjab, where a state of emergency has been declared, were the worst-hit regions in the country.
Army troops had been called to join rescue work as heavy downpours set off hill torrents in the two districts on Sunday night, while the nuclear facility in D G Khan was also reportedly inundated, causing panic and fear among the concerned authorities, an official told The Express Tribune.
“Wadore torrent (a torrent that comes from the hills and into the river) hit DG Khan for the first time in history, and has devastated the whole city. The length of the torrent is roughly around 45 miles while it is around 15 miles wide. It has inundated a vast area and displaced around 0.7 million people in the area,” said Punjab chief minister’s senior adviser Senator Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa.
The torrent, which flows adjacent to the nuclear installation in D G Khan, was diverted overnight by the concerned authorities towards the city. However, despite this extreme measure, the torrents entered the facility and inundated a vast area of the installation, officials in the local administration, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the military told The Express Tribune.
The city is protected by three barriers: local bunds, the D G Khan Canal and the railway line, an official said, adding that torrents which pass from Wadore hardly ever reached the D G Khan Canal.
The officials added that the unexpected water flow forced officials at the nuclear facility to direct the local administration to allow the breaching of the D G Khan Canal and the railway lines in order to reduce water pressure on the side of the nuclear installations.
Khosa, who arrived in D G Khan on the directives of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, said he had ordered a high-level inquiry committee to probe the breach, questioning why the water flow had been allowed to enter the canal despite government directives to shut its gates.
The senior adviser, however, ruled out any damage to the nuclear facility, saying that even though the installations were located in the path of the hill torrents, they were located on significantly higher ground than the water flow.
An ISPR spokesperson also clarified the situation, saying that a wrong perception had been created by the enemies of Pakistan and that no army personnel could intervene without the call of the civil administration.
As many as 25,000 people have been shifted to relief camps on an emergency basis in Dera Ghazi Khan, where the flooding is reported to be the worst in 105 years.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Major Adeel, in charge of the rescue efforts, said the main canal was breached at about seven points. The biggest breach was reported to be around 150 feet in length. Major Adeel said the troops were working on repairing them swiftly. A minimum breach of 35 feet was reported at other points in the canal, Adeel said, adding that more than 500 troops were involved in repairing the breach, with special assistance from 100 personnel of the engineering core.
According to military sources, army helicopters are surveying the area while troops are engaged in a rescue operation at the facility. Troops were also called in Rajanpur, Rojhan and Jampur areas of the district on the civilian administration’s plea.
District Coordination Officer (DCO) Dera Ghazi Khan Iftikhar Ali Sahu told The Express Tribune that the victims would be compensated and aid would be dispatched without any delay.
Senator Khosa announced that 4,500 bags of rice and flour and 500 tents would be donated on behalf of the Punjab government to relief camps set up for the flood affected people. The World Food Programme, a United Nations body, will provide 10,000 bags of food, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) will provide medicines.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2012.